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New budget, service districts could mean higher taxes

LAWRENCEVILLE — While Gwinnett’s chairwoman has proposed few changes to the county operating budget, changes brought to the financing of services are expected to mean an increase in taxes to the majority of county residents next year.

In a 2013 budget proposal released Tuesday, Nash unveiled a spending plan incorporating a new balance of funding created by a settlement with local cities over services. It divides the county into districts, ensuring that city residents do not pay county taxes for services they only receive from the city.

While that means all city residents will receive a break on paying for development and enforcement taxes, the biggest break will come for those in cities with their own police forces.

But Nash said the service from the county police department will change little. So with fewer taxpayers footing the bill for the county force, the tax bills for unincorporated residents (and those in cities without police departments) are expected to go up.

“Essentially, it’s a redistribution,” Nash said. “We feel like the safety of the residents is so important. I could not bring myself to make the cuts needed to balance the budget in the police district.”

The structure also gives a big break to residents of Loganville, which has its own fire department.

Even with the recreation rate slated to dip from 1 to 0.95, taxpayers in unincorporated areas could see a rate increase of about 0.73 mils, bringing the total rate to 13.75 mils. That would cost owners of the average $160,000 home another $40 each year.

The number, though, is much smaller than the minimum of 16.61 mils officials estimated the rate would rise to if the county had to implement the judge’s order in the service delivery suit. The chairwoman said she was thankful that city officials agreed to come back to the negotiating table after the case was appealed, reaching a more palatable solution.

Commissioner Jace Brooks, who was a Suwanee councilman when the settlement was reached, said the news may not be good to residents outside of cities, but the city dwellers have been over-charged for years, while people in unincorporated areas were under-charged.

“Now it’ll be more balanced,” Brooks said. “I believe this is the way we should have been doing things for quite some time, but obviously it does have an impact on the county.”

But Nash was swift to point out that Tuesday’s proposal was not about the millage rate, which is set each summer after the county’s tax digest is assessed. Officials have anticipated a 1.9 percent decrease in property values, but a steep change in that could alter the numbers.

“We’re not establishing millage rates now,” she said. “(But) we need to be sharing openly about what millage rate would be required to support the budget.”

While the county’s capital budget will go down, the proposal for the operating budget is about 1 percent more than 2012.

About $1.3 million in increases come from changes to state law, including money to help the tax assessors and commissioner’s offices with a transition to a new motor vehicle tax. Boosts are proposed to the district attorney’s offices to help with the addition of a mental health court and other accountability courts, as well as a lead investigator requested to help in the influx of allegations of government wrongdoing.

But employees will go another year without pay increases and many positions will remain vacant.

Nash said the national economy and issues like the current “fiscal cliff” caused leaders to tweak the numbers even more.

“That lead us to pull back on a few things that, I can tell you, were needed but we couldn’t afford,” she said, mentioning a proposed new fire station near Georgia Gwinnett College that did not receive funding.

The biggest proposed decrease is another $1 million reduction to the subsidy for the library system, which Nash said could be absorbed in a reduction to materials instead of another change in hours.

County staffers could have absorbed those needs — as well as a $2 million drop in revenue expected from the incorporation of the city of Peachtree Corners — with belt-tightening, she said, but the implementation of the service districts left no choice but to consider a change to the millage rate.

“We are where we are and we had to deal with it,” she said, adding that the budget process was the most difficult she has faced in all her 28 years as both an elected and appointed official.

“What (residents will) see is we have managed to preserve the delivery of services at the level people have become accustomed to,” she said. “I think this is a fiscally responsible budget.”

Residents have an opportunity to give commissioners their opinion on the spending plan during a 7 p.m. hearing Dec. 10 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville.

Commissioners will have about a month to consider the proposal or make any changes prior to the budget’s adoption, scheduled for Jan. 3.

Comments

CD 1 year, 12 months ago

You left 500k on the table, continuing to pour taxpayer funds into the rat hole Chamber. On the bright side, I know that the millage rate will be reduced if/when home prices recover. After all, the county would never seek to "grow" into the new found funds. Never.

Increase the Chamber subsidy?

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notblind 1 year, 12 months ago

Ms. Nash, Call Washington, DC and get them to cut taxes so we can have more to contribute locally where the benefits are more directly felt.

Back from fantasy land....Taxes are going up. Impossible to avoid. The feds long ago decreed that the American taxpayer must be the nanny for all desirous of one. 51% or more of Americans have voiced their desire for a nanny. They say "Pay up".

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GwinnettLEO 1 year, 12 months ago

Another year, another year of no raises for county employees. What are we at now...5 years?

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 12 months ago

U D^&^* right. But they dont mind raising the price of water, garbage, and everything else they have power over....How do they think i can continue making my mayo sandwich if i cant afford bread anymore?

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

this happens in the private sector as well I'm sorry to say. It isn't like we don't respect what you are doing, it is still a public job, meaning public funds, and you have to draw a line in the sand here. We can't keep wasting money. Get your BOC to stop wasting it and maybe they can give you all a decent raise. Blame them, not the taxpayer for your woes. We don't have pockets full of money to throw at the public sector whenever they want more to give to their "connections." Public workers should be striking against the BOC for not making the right spending decision, not attacking the taxpayer.

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Kent 1 year, 12 months ago

My commissioner is so proud of the excessive libraries and parks added during his time in office and the bills keep coming in for maintenance and staffing forever. He has not grasped the concept of wants vs. what is actually affordable and needed. Even with his scattering of taxpayer dollars throughout his district, it wasn't enough to buy enough votes for his reelection. Now he wants funding for a paid Gwinnett lobbyist at the capital to bring in more taxes for goodies he wants. Tax and spend--tax and spend.

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 12 months ago

Oh yeah i almost forgot this wonderful nice park on Hwy 29 in the slums of Lilburn.....They think if there is 10 dollars in the checking account lets see how we can spend it....If i have 10 left over i sure hide it from myself....These people are idiot politicans and they will never see what the people want....They are always looking for their under the table kickback....I bet the people that built the lilburn park were illegals anyway.. Now Lilburn is going to build a FIeld Of Dreams at taxpayers expense.....It never stops.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

Hey with matching grants we could turn that 10 spot into 200 dollars, the secret's in the volume...

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Ashley 1 year, 12 months ago

Why on earth would city residents not have to pay for county police? They do all the work! Duluth police cannot even work a basic traffic accident. And do not ask them to find a run away bride.

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Mack711 1 year, 12 months ago

@ Ashley: you are correct. However they are the best in the county at running radar.Think most of the time they rely on the county to assist on investigations. If so they should be charged for this.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

Folks we have been facing tax increases in earnest since the CIDs were created.

Remember those were supposedly set up to tax local residents to fund services in their area that originally were done or claimed "done poorly" by the county. We never saw a tax rate drop reflecting the offloading of those items did we?

We are also told that CIDS raise funds by taxing themselves within the area and spending their own money on projects, but no mention is ever made about all the matching funds from state and federal agencies ( the very ones who DON'T have monies to fund schools or national operations fully to start with.)

Unless you happen read about awards given for the "success" of revenue growth that is developed by CIDS... on tax dollars claimed by these entities... that we originally PAID... Then there are the STATE and FED grant monies... from where does it flow, if not from our pocket, purse or iPhone? ( YOU pay a buck per CELL PHONE / landline in your home for 911)

So its done ...

So we as a county returned a boatload of overcharged fees to the cities in a lump, because there is no legal provision per state law for government to return the overdrafts to the actual citizens that originally paid them... no real incentive here, is a trend-line appearing yet?

Now we will be paying a "fair share" DC style, people shouldn't be double taxed and I for one didn't like the strong arm play made originally by King Charles to force county police on the cities, but with all the puffery we didn't walk away with as good a deal as we should have from the get-go. Judges tend to get upset when court ordered mediation directives aren't complied with, forcing cities to take counties back to court just to get a sit down.

Services are now set up in districts and with modern GPS,SAP and electronics bought with drug bust money, the county going forward should be able to bill cities by the minute per officer/cruiser based on usage/time spent within the tax zone. If cell services can ...

Lawmen acting like lawyers, there should be no such thing as an unbillable minute in the work-shift now. We might just turn a profit for the general fund yet...

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MichelleCouch 1 year, 12 months ago

"Remember those were supposedly set up to tax local residents"

CID's do not tax local residents. They are business districts and the businesses within the district agree to self-tax themselves. CID's in no way represent or tax residents.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

Michelle,

Point (of information!) for the purpose of clarity accepted, thank you... There are so many ways we are taxed, phrasing is indeed critical.

HOWEVER, the point that "businesses tax themselves" is unique as businesses pass taxes on as part of operating costs to customers via product pricing as margins will be maintained, those customers who may or may not be residents themselves...

And this taxation mechanism allows access to public government tax revenues for spending via outright grants or matching funds from state, federal and joint state/federal programs (possibly county matching funds also)...

Entities that at this point that don't have enough to meet their own operations, much less give money away...

Everywhere we turn, its time for a tax increase! To borrow a line from the movie "The Mask";

Hold on to your lug-nuts boys ... it's time for an OVERHAUL!

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MichelleCouch 1 year, 12 months ago

At one point, yes, there were many opportunities for transportation improvement grants and matching funds from all levels of government. I'm sure that this type of funding has slowed considerably over the past few years.

An advantage, as recognized by the district businesses, is that the voluntary tax dollars they pay are guaranteed to benefit the very community in which their business resides.

In theory, with the ultimate objectives being transportation and economic development within the district, a return-on-investment will be greater than the tax; therefore, no additional burden be place on the customers of the district businesses.

When lead by the right administration and community/business leaders, I believe 150% in the CID's.

Having worked under Brett Harrell at the Evermore CID, I am able to fully appreciate the value and efforts of a CID.

We facilitated one project where a group of business owners in the Highway 78/Yellow River area came together, and at a significant expense beyond their tax, contributed to a private-public partnership for a sewer/infrastructure installation project. When the project was 100% complete - and under budget, the Evermore CID was actually able to cut a "refund" check back to the Gwinnett County (for around 8K if I remember correctly).

In my very humble opinion, I believe this to be one of the best examples of government and business owners working together to improve the community.

Without a CID and proper leadership, this may never have been achieved in an area of the county that needs infrastructure improvements the most as it was one of the first developed commercial regions in the county.

Thus, I am a firm believer in the CID's - when administrated by ethically and fiscally motivated administrations.

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Mugsy1 1 year, 12 months ago

The county commission has persistently used SPLOST funds to purchase more land. The commission, however, does not seem to realize that once they purchase a property it is removed from the tax rolls. Besides generating no tax revenue these properties require annual expenditures that must come from the general fund, as it is forbidden to use SPLOST funds for operating funds. Even worse, when they make these purchases they agree to be contractually bound to keep them parks into perpetuity. The SPLOST is also used to build new county buildings such as the Snellville tag office and the complex on Indian Trail. The rent they used to pay to private industry was less than the monthly expenses associated with the locations they used to lease. Bryson Park is the most egregious example of the commission having lost touch with reality. Lucky Shoals park has been underutilized as has Lions Club Park. To build a new park between them is unfathomable, however it was decided to remove more property from the tax rolls to grant the commission a legacy. How many hundreds of millions of dollars have been removed from the tax rolls so the county commissioners can smugly accept awards for their progressive outlook on service centers, parks, and libraries? As a final thought I must remind all of you of the outrageous amount spent acquiring the Olympic tennis venue and the future expenses associated with it.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

Go express your concerns at the BOC public meeting. However, don't expect them to listen or change their minds on anything that they have convinced themselves it the right thing to do. It isn't coming out of their pockets. Just like Liberals in Washington, they all do their best to give away YOUR tax money to get supporters for re-election. And you know what? It works for them because folks will just no stop re-electing these crooks over and over.

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JohnGalt 1 year, 12 months ago

Now that your dear leader has been re-elected, you will begin to see the question “Who is John Galt?” appear more often. I’m sorry; I’m done subsidizing your boondoggle projects and brilliant ideas. The looters and moochers in this country have spoken. I cannot wait to sell out and get out.

This BOC, like the Whitehouse Administration, exemplifies the epitome of stupidity.
She “…has proposed few changes to the county operating budget…” Why not? A marked decrease in revenue demands that changes be made.

As an example, if “…ensuring that city residents do not pay county taxes for services they only receive from the city...means all city residents will receive a break on paying for development and enforcement taxes, the biggest break will come for those in cities with their own police forces…”, then why is it that “…the service from the county police department will change little…” It occurs to me, that if the demand for services is reduced throughout the rest of Gwinnett as a result of this action, then the cost of such services should go down proportionally.

And you have to love this little GEM, “…Essentially, it’s a redistribution…”. LOL, isn’t that just special! How can this moron call herself a Conservative?

Forget about the rest of the story. This entire story is nothing but a chocolate covered turd. It’s advertised pretty. It looks pretty. It smells pretty. Just don’t take a bite out of it, lest you see, smell, and taste what’s inside.

And the idiocy continues… As the article states, you are welcome to go visit the Taj Mahal down in Lawrenceville on Dec. 10 to render an opinion for what that is worth. It has been my experience that doing so is as much a waste of your precious time as it is to rearrange the furniture on the Titanic. At the end of the day, the outcome is the same.

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ssisk78 1 year, 12 months ago

She doesn't have the heart to cut the police force because they bring in revenue. It use to be the police departments slogan was to SERVE AND PROTECT. Now that is TO HARRASS IT'S CITIZENS AND COLLECT REVENUE. We have way too many officer's in this county.

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Why_not 1 year, 12 months ago

As a matter of fact, there aren't enough police officers in Gwinnett County.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

that's a joke. What about the large crew that was on the payroll taking care of those 15 cities for all those years? Gimme a break. They have just been reassigned to do hardly anything now. Remember this much. Police are not out there stopping crime. They only investigate it after it takes place.

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Why_not 1 year, 12 months ago

If you think we have enough cops in Gwinnett, then you are the joke. I spent 30 years in public safety for Gwinnett County so trust me, police and fire are barely holding their own in Gwinnett and many are now leaving for better paying jobs elsewhere.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

On this matter I must agree with Whynot...

I sincerely hope doing so doesn't ruin whynot's reputation round here (Smiles)

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jack 1 year, 12 months ago

I'm so glad I voted for all the SPLOSTs so my property taxes wouldn't go up.........

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Sandykin 1 year, 12 months ago

Wait a minute! If city residents are receiving their police services from their own police departments, doesn't that decrease the area of responsibility of the county police? And if they patrol a smaller area, shouldn't the size of the staff, in response to the smaller work area, need to downsize? Shouldn't that at the very least keep taxes level, if not reduce them? Am I crazy here?

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NewsReader 1 year, 12 months ago

I believe that is what JohnGalt was articulating above Sandykin.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 12 months ago

No. There has not been a new city police department, that I know of, created in the last two decades within Gwinnett County. City residents got fed up paying for two police departments and said enough is enough.

The work load and territory of GCPD has not changed a bit. They are just no longer being subsidized by city residents who already support their own city's police department.

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Mack711 1 year, 12 months ago

Here is an idea that works in Florida, Jacksonville. Just make the whole county into a city of Gwinnett. Do away with all these 'Barney Fife' police agencys and have one department for the whole county. That way all of us pay the same. But at this point the city leadears, like Mayors and Council members, are not willing to give up their powers and positions so this may not work, just a dream.

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JHogan 1 year, 12 months ago

A very good idea. I'm for it. One unified county government.

Not far from where I live I can cross the street and be in Lawrenceville, cross the street again and be in Lilburn and then cross the street the other way and be in Snellville. One would never know, unless told, which city they were in.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

this would be destroying the power of those little bitty on-their-own cities politicians. What a novel idea you have.

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Kent 1 year, 12 months ago

You must be loony tunes with such common sense, because commissioners like my soon to be ex-commissioner is far more intelligent than us simple minded voters when making a logical analysis of what and how much we need as far as parks, and libraries, and firemen and police. The present chairman can not efficiently utilize the police force and associated costs with fewer numbers instead of building less police stations and hiring less staff and policemen. Ex chairman Bannister stated at a meeting I attended that the commissioners have to provide for all the services the people demand. The concept of high efficiency is not entered into the equation.

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Why_not 1 year, 12 months ago

I can address the fire personnel issue. Response times and ratings from the Insurance Services Office dictate improvements needed for fire departments thru ratings....if the rating gets worse, your fire insurance rates go up....and substantially I might say. The commissioners can then take those recommendations and either ignore them or make necessary improvements in either equipment, fire stations, or personnel. They don't hire the personnel just because it feels right. Fire insurance ratings are on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worse. I am pretty sure Gwinnett is now at a rating 4 and as population increases, additional stations may need to be built or face the possibility of the rating getting worse. ISO evaluates fire departments on response times, equipment and apparatus, personnel staffing, training and various other benchmarks.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

you got the point perfectly. try getting Nash to explain that to you at the public hearing!! DOn't know how people didn't see through her when they went to the polls the first time. With no opposition, she cake-walked right in for 4 more years of taking "gifts" for votes.

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dman 1 year, 12 months ago

Why don't we just incorporate the City Police departments into the County Police? We could cut back on the high paying majors and captains, re-paint their cars, redistribute the officers, expenditures and Revenues. And then just Tax everyone in the county for Police services fairly, whether they lived in a City or not. Seems like a good business plan? Lack of knowledge on my end on whether this is legal or not....but financially it seems fair.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 12 months ago

Not legal unless the city governments consent to it and they won't. The county police are understaffed and overworked. Their average response times to non-emergency calls is atrocious because of this. Why would the cities give up control of their police departments that have non-emergency response times of under ten minutes for this?

These issues are what caused the creation of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven. If anything, I think you'll see the creation of more cities with standalone police departments than the reverse.

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Why_not 1 year, 12 months ago

The county can't mandate that as long as the taxpayers within the city want to maintain their police and they in turn satisfy the requirements set forth by Georgia Peace Officer Standards.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

Do you really think the new city of Peach-tree Corners wants to give up that MILLION plus budget now? They haven't even installed the 24/7 phone system that will forward the bulk of the off hour calls to a county headquarters where the offices are closed...

It just keeps getting better doesn't it?

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notblind 1 year, 12 months ago

Let a city's pd get overwhelmed by multiple wrecks, robberies, etc and they won't hesitate a bit to be calling Gwinnett PD in to help.

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LoganvilleResident 1 year, 12 months ago

Let GCPD get overwhelmed with multiple wrecks, robberies. etc and they won't hesitate a bit to be calling in the closest city PD to help.

It is a two-way street. As a city police officer for many years, I can assure you the help went both ways. The difference.... The city PD never sent the county or unincorporated residents a bill for their service.

The bottom line is that we shouldn't be having these power and money struggles over public safety. All public safety agencies should work together for the singular purpose of making their communities safer and a better place to live. It is only common sense that you shouldn't pay taxes twice for the same service.

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CD 1 year, 12 months ago

I think most, certainly a solid majority, of the citizens agree that GCPD is a good police force now. At least we're beyond the point at which, or at least seem to be, where they were hauling citizens out in front of a muffler shop and shooting them at point blank range to collect a few bucks.

I think many in the county, certainly at least 50%, would most likely indicate the local police (SPD, DPD, and maybe others), are at least a little bit short-sighted--I'm being kind. Bottom line, consolidation makes sense.

However, consolidation goes against the "fiefdom" concept, so it is pie in the sky.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

Well if you REALLY want to stir the pot - consolidate the Sheriff and Police departments into ONE organization...

Shrieks begin in 3,2,1...

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

This has to stop. If Gwinnett taxpayers pay for Gwinnett police, then that should be the end of using them for other cities otherwise this deal is all a joke on us. This is more about money and power. It always is in politics and unless the taxpayer revolts, we are the ones getting burned over this fight.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

this will eventually happen and the residents in Gwinnett County will then get screwed by Nash and her policies.

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JustAnotherCitizen 1 year, 12 months ago

Chairperson Nash seems to have a vendetta against the county public library. Cutbacks and requirements for efficiencies are one thing, but the county, under Nash's leadership, has now cut the library's budget by over 20% and she now wants to cut the book budget by 33%. This makes no sense when our state's HS graduation rate is a lowly 66% and the county is working so hard to bring in high-tech businesses -- businesses who hire well-educated employees who want their families to live in a county that recognizes the importance of schools, libraries, and high quality services. Under Nash's leadership the library has gone from being open 73 hours a week to under 43. This is not a viable, long-term option if this county wants to bring new, tax-paying businesses to the area.

Please, BOC, reconsider this 33% cut in the library's materials budget. The library needs to be open past 3PM, it needs to be available to kids, adults, and all citizens of Gwinnett.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

“Essentially, it’s a redistribution,” Nash said. “We feel like the safety of the residents is so important. I could not bring myself to make the cuts needed to balance the budget in the police district.” This statement by Nash is the lowest a politician can go to get away with fraud; she can't bring herself to making cuts!! What a low-down blow and disgrace of a statement from a "leader." Since she went unopposed, she now feels empowered to do whatever she feels like. There is NO reason our taxes must go up for this just because she doesn't want to step on anyone's toes and lose supporters. Just plain waste and politics as usual from a so-called conservative. You all knew her past and still elected this piece of work. What about the tax on utilities that will be coming also? Remember Nash agreed to make up for the lost of taxes from a state law change by charging us an "excise tax" on our utilities. This tax is not like a sales tax so she will be able to spend this "excise tax" anywhere she feels like it, along with the rest of the BOC.

We had enough police and other public workers that catered to a dozen cities and now we have to keep all these people and their fringe benefits even though they won't be servicing those cities anymore. They will have little to do now! This is your "elected" BOC folks. You reap what you sow. Maybe the next time you will vote for someone not in politics or has a legal background.

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Why_not 1 year, 12 months ago

Go hang out at any fire station if you think those folks don't have anything to do....they are stretched to the limit now, along with many other county departments as well.

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

I hang out by mine a lot and the guys are always sitting around playing cards or watching TV most of the night. It is not a 24 hr on the truck job. My friends that work there tel me the same. I am NOT knocking their work. They are great at what they do.

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Why_not 1 year, 11 months ago

No....they don't run calls 24 hours a day but I do know for a fact that the majority of stations in Gwinnett stay extremely busy. Get on one of those trucks and do what they do for their pay and then we will talk about too many firefighters.

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

WOW folks we don't pay EMS by the hour for piece work.

We pay them for the "hours of work" they can cram into the critical minutes to save / protect lives...

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kevin 1 year, 12 months ago

These politicians are no different then the Mafia. One hides behind dirty money and guns, the other hides behind and uses its own made laws to steal from us.

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R 1 year, 12 months ago

Sorry Kevin but you have to admit the Mafia actually works for theirs ...

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